Dodge County Judge finds domestic abuse history can be used in Ware’s case
JUNEAU — Dodge County Circuit Court Judge Brian Pfitzinger agreed on Thursday with the state that previous domestic abuse incidents can be used during the trial of Laverne Ware Jr.
Ware, formerly of Fox Lake, is accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend, Sesalie Dixon, who was also his first cousin. Dixon’s body was found Dec. 4, 2016, in the passenger seat of a truck owned by Ware that was parked in a garage at his mother’s Fox Lake residence, which he owned. An autopsy revealed that Dixon died of three gunshots to the head.
Ware, 38, is charged with first-degree homicide, hiding a corpse, incest and two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He could face life in prison if convicted of the homicide charge. Ware has been in custody in the Dodge County Jail since January 2017 on a $2.5 million cash bond.
Dodge County District Attorney Kurt Klomberg said that the domestic violence history in the couple’s relationship will prove the motive and Ware’s state of mind at the time of the incident. Also, the violent nature of the relationship could be unfamiliar to many of the members of the jury, Klomberg said.
“This is foreign to most people,” Klomberg said. “Most people haven’t experienced violence in relationships like this.”
Shortly before Dixon’s death, Ware allegedly beat her with a gun before his mother Marjorie Jones stopped him, Klomberg said. Evidence at the scene and testimony from Jones and her boyfriend, Vernon Mickey, should be used as evidence to the abuse, he argued.
“He’s also charged with possession of a firearm,” Klomberg said, stating that the prosecution would be attempting to prove that Ware had possession of the gun used in the beating and the gun used to kill Dixon.
“It places the evidence in his hands,” Klomberg said.
Ware’s Milwaukee-based attorneys, Aneeq Ahmad and Jennifer Severino, questioned whether the evidence should be admitted at trial.
Ahmad asked how the state would bring up the evidence since Mickey’s testimony would be hearsay and asked about Jones testifying against her son.
Ahmad said he wanted a clear purpose on how Ware’s history would be used as a motive.
“There has to be a relationship between the two acts for motive,” Ahmad said.
In addition, Ahmad said that he had never seen a domestic abuse assessment in a homicide case.
With any other-acts evidence, Ahmad said, it matters how badly the evidence is needed and whether it will prejudice the jury.
Klomberg said that the evidence would show Ware’s state of mind.
“I’m a little taken back by the argument that the domestic abuse assessment can’t be used on a homicide case,” Klomberg said.
In his making his ruling, Pfitzinger said, “There are multiple purposes that allow for this evidence to be used.”
Pfitzinger also heard arguments about if money sent to Ware’s family could be brought up in court.
Klomberg said that Ware’s sending money to family members including his mother and Dixon’s parents, Stanley Johnson and Teresita Johnson, could be seen as witness tampering and bribery. However Ahmad said the money could have been sent for any number of reasons including to help pay for funeral costs.
Also the court addressed a “Denny” motion concerning Jones and if she could have been responsible for Dixon’s death. Under a Denny motion, the defense has to show motive, opportunity and some direct evidence connecting another person to the crime before suggesting that person is responsible.
Severino said that Jones had motive in the case and had expressed a desire to kill Dixon in the past, had access to the gun used in the slaying and was around Ware and Dixon the entire day of Dixon’s death.
Klomberg said Jones never left the home that day and there was evidence on the truck that Dixon wasn’t killed on the property of the home.
Pfitzinger will be addressing the money and Denny motions at a later date and another motion hearing was scheduled for Sept. 19.
Ware’s trial is scheduled to start March 4.